We have a very exciting recent development. For several months we have been trying to gather enough baseline data with cameras and collars to test the idea that the home ranges of wild cougar can be modified using artificial scent posts. On Friday of last week, graduate student Megan Pitman and TESF biologist Chris Jones placed tiger urine along a frequently used travel path of our collared male cougar. The large yellow dot indicates the location of the scent marker. This cougar was collared in April of 2007 (See April posts). Ten months of data collection has revealed that this cougar has a long narrow home range along the Rio Grande floodplain. Immediately following the application of tiger urine this cougar seems to have taken a long detour to the west. Note the four red dots marking the cougar's location after the application of scent. While we must be cautious of our interpretation at this stage, and while there is the nagging possibility that we are seeing another ill-timed satellite error, these are the most promising results we could have hoped for at this point.
Friday, February 29, 2008
To our considerable relief, the collar is functioning as it should. Here is a map of the cougar's movements between the 19th and the 29th of this month. The green star indicates the location where she was collared and the red star indicates where she was last located. There is likely a kill located within that cluster of red dots to the northwest of the green star.
We followed our cougar a short distance to make sure that she successfully made a shallow stream crossing. Above, Harley points out some VERY fresh cougar tracks to workshop participants. Harley reckons these tracks were made by a groggy, 70 to 80 pound female cougar within the last 5 minutes. He really is that good.
After collaring, measuring, and doctoring our cougar, we paused briefly for a group photo of the workshop participants before reviving her. Ranch manager Steve Dobrott, center with brown hat, blue shirt and sunglasses, did the honors of injecting the sedative antagonist, and more importanly, directing the waking cougar away from the group.
"Retired" cougar researcher Harley Shaw, author of "Soul Among Lions" and workshop organizer fits a Telonics GPS collar (purchased by the Oregon Zoo) to our sedated cougar. Note the asymmetry in of the toes in the front paw and the distince three lobes in the heel pad, both excellent characteristics for identifying cougar tracks.
We were successful in treeing some cougars, thanks to Mike and his dogs, but we weren't successful in collaring any cougars. The three we had seen on the rocks, and the two that the dogs eventually treed, were all cubs and too small to carry our GPS collars. Above is a 40 to 50 pound male. Although we didn't get out any collars on this particular excursion it was still an invaluable experience to watch Mike work with the mules and hounds and to watch the behavior of tracking dogs and cougars.